Tori Morrison The Grand Art of The Jerry-Rig

Jerry-rigging gets a bad name in our media, whether it was “Home Improvement” and “The Red Green Show” in the 1990’s or currently, “Canada’s Worst Handy Man”, and photo blogging sites like, “There I fixed it.” It seems like the only person that the media thinks is allowed to jerry-rig is MacGyver.

Jerry-rig, is most likely a mix of the terms jerry-built, a term for 19th century English homes that were built through inferior means and jury-rigging, a nautical term for temporarily fixing or constructing a mast.  Colloquially, the two terms have been mashed together to essentially mean constructing something through non-conventional means.

I’m a hardcore jerry-rigger and I will no longer be ashamed. It’s not that I don’t want to do it ‘the right way,’ it’s that the right way cost money and requires tools that I don’t have and can’t afford. To some people this makes them think that I’m stupid because clearly, if I’m choosing to do something in the wrong way, I should not bother to do it at all. However, I will set out in three simple examples why jerry-rigging is not only a wonderful tool of the ingenious inventor but that it predates, and will outstand the ‘right way’ of doing anything.

1. Jerry-rigging was once inventing.

When an animal needs to break something, he/she thinks about what they need, and finds it amongst their surroundings. There is no Ape’s Home Hardware down the street, so they are forced to look around the forest for sticks, rocks and bigger rocks to achieve their goals. Not only have these animals created clever means for spearing, breaking, home-building and fishing, they are in fact, jerry-rigging their way up the evolutionary chain. At one point, humans were also using sticks, rocks, mud and other objects from their own environment to fix their problems, long before the yellow pages had been invented. Not only do we now study animals that are tool-makers, we rave about how intelligent they are for being able to solve their problems using their own environments

I too, use my surroundings as a treasure chest of opportunity when building something and therefore; jerry-rigging is natural and predates the existence of the ‘right-way’. In fact, the ‘right-way’ stemmed from the creation of jerry-rigging. What is a hammer, if not the evolved stick plus rock, what is a robotic arm if not the evolved stick with a piece of gum/magnet on the end? Sure, the ‘right way’ tools are, in all their complicated, mass produced sense, often a better solution, but in a pinch, they are pretty much the same thing.  

2. I am a survivor.

If you spend your life jerry-rigging, people often characterize you as a redneck idiot who hates book-learnin’. I love books and prefer to think of my jerry-rigging expertise as me exercising my problem solving skills for any apocalyptic surprise the future may hold, be it religious or zombie. Looking around my table as I write this, I have instantly found all the survival tools I need to build a shelter, a weapon and yes, I can even knit me some new underwear for when I shit myself when the world starts to go insane. Can you? Do you think that plumber you hired last year is running to help you right now? He’s not. He’s out looting the Rona for the last wielding helmet because he needs to build his shelter the safe way. Pfft, morons. Have fun getting your brains eaten, who’s stupid now?  I can even make this claim when I’m mobile because I often have a bunch of random crap that I carry around with me because I’m a girl. That’s right, I have a big ass bag I lug around, which often has pointy knitting needles, string, a bunch of zip-ties, gum, and a box cutter. Yup, I’m a mobile MacGyver dispensing machine and if this world goes tits up at any point, this should terrify the shit out of you, because your debit card and ironic mustache are going to do nothing for you. In short, the jerry-rigger is simply someone who practices for the end of the ‘right-way’ and will own you in the event of a zombie apocalypse

3. Jerry-rigging is the poor man’s tool belt.

Jerry-riggers are just as pragmatic and intelligent as experts; they just take from a different pool of resources. It’s not that Billy-Joe wants to have a car that’s made of one third non-traditional car parts; it’s that he can’t afford car parts and he can find scrap metal, duct tape and zip ties. He isn’t stupid, he knows car parts are the best option. Arguing that another person should be made fun of for their lack of resources doesn’t make you intelligent, it makes you an asshole.

When the media covers the practice of jerry-rigging, they show a buffoon who requires help from others. But it’s because only bad jerry-rigging goes noticed. I argue that you’ve walked past thousands of jerry-rigs today that you have no idea exist because they are hidden well by the fact that they are actually working. Maybe you’ve past a painting that was knocked in with a screwdriver handle instead of a hammer, can you tell the difference? The reason we think of jerry-rigging as a practice of idiots is that it is only identifiable when it’s been conducted by an idiot. With this, I challenge you today to go out a build something, use your brain and your resources around you to make something, anything. Even if you do a shitty job, remember, you may need that skill one day and its worth working on, you may survive a plane crash, or an economic crash, or maybe you just realize a sense of self-worth you never felt when you called that expert to come fix your problem.

*the author of this piece would like to inform you that she does not believe you should do your own electrical work or any other jerry-rigging that may cause your death and she will take no responsibility for encouraging you on your horrible decision to kill yourself. In fact, she intends in the event of your death to mumble “Sans what? Never heard of it.” And then treat herself to a really great sandwich.

Also, photo... Richard Dean Anderson [-Ed]

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